Another day in Washington, another millennia’s worth of completely polarized news cycles surrounding the latest controversial thing President Trump said about immigrants.
During a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform, Trump allegedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as “shitholes,” sparking acute public pushback against the comments.
– we’re bombing 8 different countries
– half the US makes $30k a year or less
– we have the worst healthcare in the developed world
– 45k die each year from lack of coverage
– we have $1.2T in student loan debt
– our infrastructure gets a D+
don’t talk about ‘shithole countries’
— Secular Talk (@KyleKulinski) January 11, 2018
World tourism increased 7% in 2017. Foreign tourism to the US decreased 4%.
It seems people don’t want to visit a country with a shithole President.
— Pitt Griffin (@pittgriffin) January 17, 2018
It doesn’t matter whether @realDonaldTrump said SHITHOLE or SHITHOUSE either way he does not belong in our WHITE HOUSE.
— Ryan Knight, PROUD RESISTER👊 (@ProudResister) January 17, 2018
In the direct aftermath of the initial Washington Post article, the administration did not immediately deny saying the word. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained Trump’s politically incorrect nature.
“One of the reasons that he won and is sitting in the Oval Office today is because he isn’t a scripted robot,” she said. “He’s somebody who tells things like they are sometimes, and sometimes he does use tough language.”
Predictably, the president took to his personal Twitter to clear his name, claiming that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and other Democrats misrepresented his comments as racist.
Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 15, 2018
Additionally, in response to allegations, he flatly rejected the racist label. “I am the least racist person you’ve ever interviewed,” he said to the White House press pool.
In typical Washington fashion, party identification could essentially predict whether or not a politician was willing to defend the president’s questionable comments.
Arizona State Rep. Jay Lawrence, a Republican, defended Trump’s comments almost immediately, writing that countries with lower living standards than the Western world can appropriately be considered “shitholes.”
“There are people that will take anything the president says as the most evil thing in the world. The president is probably so quoted and misquoted,” wrote Lawrence in the Phoenix New Times. “The man is amazing. He is an absolute non-racist.”
Others argue that there is no other word to use to describe Trump but racist.
According to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll, nearly 60 percent of people disagree with Trump’s comments, with the majority believing they can be considered racist.
The comments also sparked intensive, mainstream international backlash. Most notably, both the United Nation and 55-nation African Union condemned the statement, with the latter describing the comments as “clearly racist.”
But while the debate is justified — considering it is about what could be explicitly racist comments from the most powerful man in one of the most powerful nations in the world — domestically, it could hurt policy.
“You can’t have immigration compromise if everybody’s out there calling the president a racist,” said Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to NBC’s “Meet The Press,” referring to the currently disputed DACA provisions in the budget.
A Washington Post article suggested the debate is distracting from passing a budget deal that could prevent a government shutdown in congressional hearings, where legislators are attempting to come to a bipartisan compromise to enshrine DACA protections into law.
“The lack of progress and the acrimonious words Tuesday exposed the extent to which Trump’s vulgar comments injected mistrust into already tense negotiations,” wrote the Post’s Ed O’Keefe and Nick Miroff.
The chances of compromise on immigration and funding the government are looking slimmer every day the “shithole” story remains in the public eye.
“A year into his presidency, disputes over the president’s views and rhetoric about religious and racial minorities continue to hamper his policies,” wrote Politico’s Matthew Nausbaum, highlighting how Democrats are disincentivized to compromise with someone who has been deemed a racist in the public eye on immigration reform.
Whatever you think about the “shithole” comment, lawmakers and the media need to decide what role Trump’s ill-conceived comments will have on possible congressional compromise in light of what could be an impending government shutdown.